South African Duo Takes on Ironman Kona For Charitable Cause
The GoPro Ironman World Championship is not just about the top endurance athletes in the world. The world-class event is also a dynamic storyteller, putting its spotlight on those who run for a myriad of different causes and inspirations.
Two South African men, Gary Stephenson and Garth Wright, aren’t competing this weekend in Kona to finish before everyone else. All they want to do is complete a race for a cause.
Both men were given spots in this weekend’s race by the Ironman Foundation, recognizing them for the charitable work they have done through the Ironman.
Stephenson and Wright have complete nine Ironman South Africa events, including the most recent one held in April. They competed to raise money for local children’s homes which they say are underfunded by the South African government.
“In South Africa, there’s a little bit of turmoil going on,” said Stephenson. “All the money that’s supposed to be spent for the homes and the charities and the children doesn’t get to them all the time. We sort of knew a few people in town and realized that these homes needed some help.”
Both men decided to enlist the help of businesses in town to help them raise money. The logos of the businesses would go on Stephenson and Wright’s race attire the entire race. In year one, Stephenson said that two businesses combined to donate 11,000 rand, which equated to $1,104 in the states.
Once people fully caught wind of the pair’s efforts, the pleas for help and the money to donate began to climb. The following year, Stephenson estimates that he and Wright raised about 150,000 rand, which is just over $15,000 in America.
“Each year, we’ve managed to other people into the program with us to raise a heck of a lot more money,” Stephenson explained. “Hopefully, we’ve been able to enhance a few of those poor kids’ lives.”
In nine years, Stephenson says that they have raised 6.5 million rand in South Africa, which is just over $652,000 here.
The emphasis this weekend is not on South Africa, however. Stephenson says that his goal is to raise money for local youth charities on the Big Island. He says that any business that would like to participate can have a say on which charity receives the money. In exchange, the organization will have its logo displayed on the athletes’ clothing during the duration of the event.
Now that the two have ventured away from home to compete in an Ironman event, the goal is to compete in similar events around the globe with the same mission in mind. “We’d like to go and do the next five Ironman events all over the world. Next year, we’ll be going home to finish our tenth (Ironman South Africa) there, and then we’re going to do one a year in the different countries around the world,” said Stephenson, who turns 50 this year.
Stephenson says that they are still looking for local businesses to partner with for charity. Anyone interested should contact him by e-mail at [email protected]